Enlightened double bassists such as Stefano Scodanibbio, Jöelle Léandre, Mark Dresser and Christian Weber have been unceasingly revealing the massive potential of an extremely difficult sonic tool, which in the hands of a technically advanced perceptive soloist can repay any effort with flashes of stunningly irrational beauty. With “Xylobiont” – a neologism for “organism of wood” according to Richard Barrett’s liners – John Eckhardt formally asks to be included in the pantheon of new music’s solo performers, not without a reason. For starters, the instrumental competence shown in these eight pieces by the Hamburg resident is nothing short of awesome, his curriculum portraying him as a teammate of important chamber groups (Klangforum Vienna, Musikfabrik NRW, Ensemble Intégrales to name but three) and a composer interested in the interrelations between dissimilar artistic forms and genres, including drum’n’bass (!). Still, no written explanation will get you prepared for the tremendous incisiveness of Eckhardt’s razor-sharp playing, which lays a hand on numerous facets of present-day creativity without losing an ounce of clear-headedness. Indeed what the bassist does best is finding a spot on the instrument and probing it up to the perfect combination of cyclical particles, incessant repetitions and choral prosperity that, quite often, places the results in districts adjacent to minimalism. An ideal exemplification in that sense is “Noo Bag”, where Eckhardt applies a continuous rebounding of the bow on the strings in the under-the-bridge region, extrapolating tiny notes and muffled partials that remind of intrinsic micro-cellular activities. Elsewhere, as in “Filum”, he executes a series of movements on an isolated string, generating surges of resonant incidents and minute linear units through the different positioning of the arco. Although declaring himself a jazz player in the depth of the spirit, the severe essentiality of Eckhardt’s concept makes him look like a contemplating being rather than a swinging lost soul. “Xylobiont” is unquestionably a major statement, a proclamation of existence for an extraordinarily accomplished virtuoso performer.


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